Monday, September 10, 2007

You Wear It Well

By my calculations, Artistic Soul is the new winner at CoG. If s/he contacts me to let me know where to send the little prizy, s/he will receive it. Clearly Artistic Soul has good taste in music.

Thanks to all who played. I posted the answers in the comments section of the previous entry, in case you are curious.

Things have been mostly fine for ol’ GayProf. One class that I am teaching, though, doesn’t seem to be moving as smoothly as I hoped. It’s odd, too, because it’s usually a really popular class. I have taught it at two different universities and it has always gone well and attracted enthusiastic students. This time, it feels like we are stuck in mud. My other class seems just fine and normal. Yet, this one just doesn’t have a good vibe. I’ll have to think about how to fix that.

In between teaching and working on the never-ending-project-of-doom, I have also been attending my regularly required institutional events. A recent occasion was a “meet and greet” of new graduate students.

At my former Texas institution, it was made explicitly clear that I was not to have any contact with the precious grad students there (lest I contaminate them with ideas about race, gender, and sexuality). The feeling is quite different at Big Midwestern U, where I am even slated to teach a grad class next semester.

All the same, grad students are a bit of a mystery to me. True, I once was one. That, however, seems like a million years ago. Now, I just observe grad students from afar. Consider me the Jane Goodall of the academic world. Sometimes I drug them, insert a radio tag in their ear for tracking, and release them back into the wild. They feel nothing.

Since I haven’t had a chance to interact with grad students individually, it’s easier to draw conclusions about them as a group. One thing that I have noticed is that there is a dress code to grad students based on their field. By the time we become professors, any sense of individuality in dressing has been ground out until we appear identical to our academic counterparts (I am considered quite radical, for instance, because I dared to put on a tie to teach today. Clearly I didn’t get the memo that the only teaching outfit for history professors is either khakis or jeans with a polo shirt. (Perhaps this is why that one class isn’t responding to me...)).

Before we learn to wear the University Approved Professor gear, though, we have a sense of style that matches our field of research interest. If you are confused about how to dress as a new history grad student, let me help (with an obvious nod to Un-Cool):

Modern European History:

    If you have decided to become a grad student in European history, you already consider yourself better than your colleagues. You don’t waste your time studying your own nation. No, no. Your time is only devoted to the “real” history of Europe. Probably you were the kid who used to bring the Wall Street Journal to your eighth grade class and pretend to read it. Hey, you needed something to put in that attache case.

    Since those times, you have grown up. Yet, your wardrobe will still reflect that smug feeling of superiority. Others might scoff and say that you are out of date (or frigid – whatever). Don’t listen to them! You know that your look is “classic.”


      Shirt: A simple button down blouse in solid colors.
      Pants/Skirt: ONLY skirts. You aren’t an animal.
      Shoes: Simple brown loafers were good enough for Grandma-ma, they are good enough for you.
      Required Item: Hair must either be in a bun or a perm.
      Optional: A festive pashmina in any color.


      Shirt: Oxford, button down. It can be either white or with a blue stripe
      Pants: Chinos, chinos, chinos. Nothing but chinos as far as the eye can see. Jeans are just too American.
      Shoes: Wingtips, which you polish weekly.
      Required Item: Sam Spade hat (that makes you look silly).
      Optional: Pipe (that makes you look silly and gives you throat cancer)

Medieval History:

    Oh, my poor Medieval grad students! You are so misunderstood by your fellow humans!

    If you are white, your wardrobe reflects the uncomfortable transition that you are making from Goth to actual functioning adult. Sure, you still have the twenty-sided dice stored in your drawer “just in case,” but your intellectual studies are making you realize that there is big difference between fantasy and what actually happened in 1205 (They didn’t call them the dark ages for nothing!).


      Shirt: Any style, but it must be black. Occasionally, you will wear grey, if you are feeling festive.
      Pants: Black jeans.
      Shoes: Three-quarter length suede leather boots.
      Required Item: Facial hair
      Optional: Long hair in a pony tail.


      Shirt: Black tank top, with lacy fringe.
      Skirt/Pants: Long, cotton skirt in dark colors.
      Shoes: Sensible flats.
      Required Item: Pentagram necklace.
      Optional: Ring with secret compartment for poison.

    **If, however, you are a racial minority who is also a Medieval grad student, please consult the wardrobe options of “Modern European HistoryGrad Students.”

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Studies/Gender Studies:

    Ironically, there is a radical divide along gender lines in the GLBTQ and Gender Studies departments. For women, you choose outfits that show that you are serious about the academic work and reject the status quo. Yet, you still want to show off your physical assets. Hey, don’t we all? Just because you're a feminist doesn’t mean you don’t also have the goods.

    Still, you don’t have time to worry about things like color choices or coordinating your undergarments. You only have time for serious, serious, serious thinking.

    Men in GLBTQG will be the best dressed fellas in the department. Your colleagues and professors will wonder how you possibly afford those latest fashions on that measly graduate student stipend. Little do they know, though, that you are secretly sewing your own wardrobe at night. Scarlett has nothing on you! A dress out of curtains? Bah! You have stitched an entire three piece ensemble out of a role of Bounty© towels and your last trick’s left sock.


      Shirt: A tank-top, but only in black or white. The bra underneath must a) have visible bra straps because the tank top doesn’t cover them and b) be the opposite color of the tank top. Alternative: A t-shirt with the Charlie's Angels logo that you wear with a sense of irony.
      Skirt/Pants: Either a skirt or pants, as long is it is in the color “Olive Drab.”
      Shoes: Sensible walking shoes that are probably also the only ones in the room to have ever been resoled.
      Required Accessory: Tattoo, preferably on the bicep.
      Extras: Either an eyebrow piercing or a tongue piercing. In lieu of that, you can also wear remarkably dark mascara or die your hair jet black.

    Men (a.k.a. GLBT Hipster):

      Shirt: Button down, long sleeve (always rolled up 3/4 of the way, natch) shirt in vibrant, shiny colors. Anything that catches the light, the better! Alternative: A T-Shirt with the Charlie's Angels logo that you wear without a sense of irony.
      Pants: Dark wool, even in summer. Sure it’s hot, but wool hangs better.
      Shoes: The Kenneth Cole boots that changed your life!
      Required Accessory: Hair product and expensive cologne.
      Extras: Some item of jewelry that people didn’t even know was produced anymore (pocket watch, tie clip, cufflinks, etc.).

Latin America/Africa/Latinos in the U.S./African American:

    White graduate students who study either Latin America or Africa (or their decedents in the U.S.) have many things in common. You both want to be “down with the people.” You both adore researching “on location” because you consider it an opportunity to take a holiday from hygiene. You both are often oblivious to your own role in U.S. imperialism.

    At first glance, therefore, one might be deceived that you don’t put much effort into your appearance. On the contrary, you spend the most time considering what to wear and how to wear it. Each item of clothing is a political statement.

    If white:

      Shirt: Something made out of hemp because the more uses that we show that there are for hemp, the more likely the government(s) will be to legalize Marijuana, man.
      Pants: Cargo shorts only, even in winter.
      Shoes: Hiking boots.
      Required: Long, greasy hair.
      Extras: A beret so tired that even Che wants you to stop wearing it.


      Shirt: Anything with a massive print to it and vibrant colors. Something last produced in 1985.
      Skirt/Pants: Broomstick Skirt or anything that is long and flowing. Which, you know, is just so practical for those long treks in the desert.
      Required; Long, greasy hair.
      Extras: Handcrafted earrings that you have been assured are made from authentic ritual stones honoring a mysterious religious past (In reality, plastic beads imported from Taiwan).

    ***If Latino/African/African American studying Latin American/Africa/Latinos in the U.S./African Americans, see GLBTQ Studies. Regardless of your sexuality or gender, you dress just like the Gay Hipster.

U.S. Historian of the West:

    Grad students in the history of the U.S. West have the least gender variation in their wardrobes. It’s not so much that you believe in gender egalitarianism. You just don’t give a fuck anymore (either men or women). Style, shopping, grooming: These are the demons that you must slay if you want to get ahead in this field.


      Shirt: Cotton, short sleeve in summer. Flannel in winter.
      Pants: Jeans – They were good enough for California 49ers, they are good enough for you.
      Shoes: Cowboy boots.
      Required: Cowboy hat
      Optional: Buckle the size of your head.


      Shirt: Cotton, short sleeve in summer. Flannel in winter.
      Pants/Skirt: Jeans – They were good enough for California 49ers, they are good enough for you.
      Shoes: Cowboy boots.
      Optional: Skin cancer from sunning yourself on a rock in Arizona or New Mexico for all that time.

Military Historian:

    There are two types of military history grad students: Those who are in the military and avoiding being sent to war by getting a degree; and those who aren’t in the military and wish they were going to war. Either way, it’s not good news for your closet.


      Shirt: Any shirt with more starch than a baked potato.
      Pants: Black trousers with exceptional creases.
      Shoes: Shiny, shiny black ones.
      Required: Buzz cut.
      Optional: A gun.

      I have never met a woman grad student in military history. Sorry.

Religious History:

    Why are you even studying history? You really want to be out saving souls and doing missionary work. It turns out, though, that “missionary” is the only professional career that actually pays less than “historian.” Besides, you were never really a “people” person. You just enjoy lecturing them and being right all the time.

        Shirt: Anything plaid. Oh, Goddess, how you love the plaid.
        Pants: Black polyester.
        Shoes: Sneakers that don’t match those black polyester pants.
        Required: Bible/Qur’an/Philosophies of Buddha
        Optional: A gun.

        Shirt: Anything with a high collar and long sleeves. Not that anybody will notice because it will be covered by the tweed jacket.
        Pants/Skirt: If the still made them you would buy hoopskirts.
        Shoes: Nothing shiny! You aren’t that type of girl!
        Required: Big, clunky wooden jewelry.
        Optional: Chastity belt.


Marlan said...

Great stuff. I can't wait until you posit your thesis on the fans and fan-wear of MFT U, hmm, those initals almost spell something--nope, it was just a word verification.

Anonymous said...

as always, gayprof, you've left me in stitches. must add a note from my own experiences with medieval/male: daily uniform of the aforementioned black pants, but accompanied by a banded collar shirt, usually silk. worn every day of the year, regardless of weather, 1998-2004. Occasionally augmented by black silk cape. Yep, a cape. To seminar, lecture, meetings with students, even the bar. I suspect his 20-sided die was in his pocket, not the drawer. good luck in MFT. (btw, pretty sure we passed in the elevator lobby between interviews for job at MFT. couldn't be happier for your escape from hateful TX institution!)

tornwordo said...

I think you put a lot of thought into this post. I hope you had fun doing it, lol.

vuboq said...

wow. history grad students wear clothes. that is *so* different from environmental policy ...

my superfantastic cousin has one of those rings with the flip-top for poison. or she used to anyway. i think they are v. cool.

Steven said...

What an in-depth look at fashion and its differences amongst periods of time and classes of people. One thing that has stuck in my mind was the observation about the reaction of students in one of your classes and that it has not been running as smoothly as expected. For students, many times the option is to drop the course and select a different course if the class isn't as lively/informative. But when it's the professor making the observation, the professor can't exactly stop instructing the course, but has to find what "works" for his students. I hope you're able to find that.

Anonymous said...

LOL. Very funny. :)

Thank god you haven't made it over to the sciences yet ...

gwoertendyke said...

i wish you could do that for literature grads....admit, it's tempting.

dpaste said...

I'm longing for your take on Grad students in the field of Literature. I quiver just imagining it.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Do I sense bitterness towards the European history students, a sense that they should be concentrating on what's closer to home?

Of course, I would be biased towards European history, being, well, European.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to imagine you in a cross between the Latino and Queer history looks. Kinda hot, actually.

theindigolemon said...

So funny.

Paris said...

Pipes? The only graduate students I have encountered smoking pipes were in philosophy. I think I might have strained something trying to not laugh in their faces.

A refinement to your typology, although depending on the faculty in your department it might not manifest at MFTU, is that your medievalists are the ones that care about what happened before 1066 in north/north-western Europe. The ones concerned with either side of that date and of a markedly less insular focus dress like the modern Europeanists.

dykewife said...

i'm not a grad student yet, but i suspect that my wardrobe will be pretty much the same as it is now that i'm an undergrad. sweats (when it's chilly and in winter), shorts or capri pants to keep from sticking to the seats in school, t shirts, and sandals or old tatty sneakers (which, by the way, i haven't found since the move so am wearing sandals hoping that snow doesn't come too soon), and a sweatshirt with my alma mater (or what will be my alma mater) name embroidered on the front.

Frank said...

Silly medievalists: everyone knows those poison rings are Renaissance! Lucretia Borgia used them to poison everyone in sight because she was OMG, TEH EVUL SLUT!, even though she was really more a marriageable pawn who did what her father and brothers told her to.

I am waiting for Kenneth Cole boots to come an change my life.

Artistic Soul said...

eeeekkkk!! I'm so excited. I don't usually win things. I'll email you.

M-Dub said...

Long-time reader, first-time poster. A very astute observation. As I have only attended community college, I will have to take your word for the fashion. Not that I haven't seen every one of these folks out in public, I just never assumed they made it through grad school!

Sisyphus said...

Hah! I love it!

My problem must be that I'm not a gay man, as I love the Gay Hipster Grad look and am always drawn to it. Could help explain my dating problems. :)

Marius said...

I love this post! Also, I think you should do other areas. Gay scientists are an interesting bunch. We're all over the place in terms of fashion, but most of us are fabulous in some way.

GayProf said...

Marlan: I wandered through the fans wearing their fan-wear the other day. Everything seems subdued, perhaps for obvious reasons.

DTR: Ah -- A mystery. Are you still in MFT or was our passing in the elevator just fate?

Torn: I probably need a different hobby.

VUBOQ: One of my sisters has one of those cool rings, too (and she was never a grad student). I was always a little jealous. Meanwhile, I have to poison people with an iodine dropper like some schmuck.

Steven: It's true that I can't "shop around" for different students (though I like the idea...). For this class, it's not so much that there is anything wrong with the students. Rather, we just aren't quite clicking as a group.

Alan: To date, no scientists have invited me over. *cough*

Adjunct Whore and David: We can only make fun of our own, no? Besides -- Literature grad students? That's like fish in a barrel.

Baron: I probably should have allowed more wiggle room for other types of Europeanists. I actually get along pretty well with the European Historians (especially if they are from Europe). There is one particular group in the U.S., though, who are just a bit too smug about studying the other hemisphere.

Huntington: Hot -- Sad. Whichever. I do like my Charlie's Angels t-shirt, though.

Elena: It's funny cuz it's true.

Paris: I feel what you are putting down. Remember, too, that all grad students' sense of individual fashion sense is ground out of them until we all look the same (jeans or khakis with a button down shirt (or polo)).

DykeWife: Based on that outfit, I am guessing School of Social Work? ;)

Frank: You are only 24. The Kenneth Cole Boots that changed my life didn't appear until my late 20s.

Artistic Soul: You are now one of life's winners. I am so glad you played the game!

M-Dub: Hail, Amazon Sister! Glad to have you delurk. Who said anything about these people finishing grad school?

Sisyphus: Well, you have to dress like what you want to sleep with.

Marius: I am not sure that I have met that many gay scientists. I need a good population sample before I can start drawing conclusions.

This Boy Elroy said...

I love pashminas!! They're so Little Edie Bouvier.

Anonymous said...

I'm delurking for this post!

I've always found the medievalists to dress more like the way you describe modern European historians. Of course I've never met a medievalist who is ever just a medievalist, we tend to dabble into religious history, art history, or military history. I was always the the more art historically inclined kind of medievalist with a taste of religious history and a hint of anthropology.

Then again, I also like to anachronistically connect everything with the Pre-Columbian Andes, so you can see what a hot mess my brain is. Combine all of this with my hipster bent homosexuality and penchant for comicbook based shirts, and I tend to be quite the vision in fashion confusion.

Anonymous said...

It's hardly European history's fault for being much more interesting and awarding than American. (Kidding, kidding...or am I?).

Anonymous said...

Please, please visit the literature department and exercise your keen eye on the folks there. Speaking as one such student (Contemporary American, Asian American, postcolonial), there's a goldmine of material there.

I'd like to think that I dress above the curve.

But that might mean that I don't belong there.

But that's an anxiety-filled rambling for my own blog...

dykewife said...

oh. ever so close! sociology :)

Anonymous said...

i'm also de-lurking for this post. and frankly, i'm disappointed that your queer/gender studies fashion is so strictly divided into men & women. did all of the women's studies grad students at MFT U come of age in the 70s? please. female-bodied queers can be gay hipsters too, and they come in different varieties as well (femme, boi, trannyfag, etc.)

Anonymous said...

What, no Grad student in the sciences? Or is that just too easy? LOL

Anonymous said...

You forget the medieval hair! A trend my friends and I noticed among medievalists was the waist-length hair in dreadful need of conditioner, as if trying to emulate a medieval maiden in a tower.

(Not that any of us have this hair. We are all the epitome of chic and fabulously put together.)

GayProf said...

Adam: I just like saying the word "pashmina." Though "Bouvier" is fun, too.

Silent Daniel: Connecting Medieval Europe to the Andes? Sounds like you are studying at the feet of Sabine McCormick.

Chad: Are you polishing your Wingtips right now? Kidding -- Kidding... Or am I?

kaleidescopeeyes88: Being concerned that you dress better than your colleagues has to be the best reason for having anxiety about belonging in the academic world that I have heard. I would say you should stick it out just to help us all look cooler.

Anon: Fair enough.

Atari: I just assume that scientists wear little white lab coats . . . and reside in the 1950s. What do I know?

New Kid: Good point about the hair. There is also "prof" hair. We seemingly stop caring at some point (around 40?) and it just turns into a gob of straw (regardless of gender).

Anonymous said...

For literary studies, it is important to remember that black is the color of Theory. At Irvine at one point they had even identified a Critical Theory Shoe - black, funky and with a clunky heel.

The professor outfit which most peeves me is (men) wide jeans, (women) A-line jeans skirt, birkenstocks, and (men) Mayan shirt
(women) Mayan huipil. For linguistic anthropologists. To be used with bad hair, unattractive glasses, blotchy skin and no make-up.

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